Drugs and Poverty
In the United States today, one of the most overlooked aspect that would decrease poverty would be drug laws pertaining to the criminalization of drugs and the incarceration of users. Before discussing how to change these laws, it must be made clear that the focus of this argument is not the people who use drugs and their role in society; but rather, how the government chooses to deal with these people. The United States has a system plagued by inefficiencies of antiquated laws as well as bureaucratic tape. The two problems are embodied in the systems that regulate current drug laws as well as drug education. In order to fix these problems and ameliorate poverty, the United States must rewrite current drug laws pertaining to marijuana as well as rewrite the curriculum pertaining to drug education programs. If the United States acts accordingly, then the level of poverty in the United States will greatly decrease. Before discussing how we should rewrite current drug laws, let's analyze the current system which is common in most states. When an individual is arrested for possession of marijuana, he must go to court to be sentenced. After this, that individual will have to pay fines, court costs, as well as any other related expenses. When considering the problems of poverty and the inefficiencies of dealing with it, the implications of current drug laws becomes clear. Current drug laws present a two-fold burden on the local, state, and national governments of the United States. The primary burden is that of time. A great deal of time is wasted as people wait to be convicted of their drug-related offense, get processed through the legal system, and then comply with all requirements set forth by the judge such as probation, community service, and random drug testing. All of this takes valuable time away from the government. The second burden occurs when the convicted is incarcerated; the prison system takes up additional resources in that they become directly responsible for the well-being of the prisoner. By taking on these prisoners, the prison system as well as the court system must waste valuable resources to deal with them. The problem is that the increased number of cases or time being used to deal with these offenses has accounted for "over 80 percent of the increase in the federal prison population from 1985 to 1995" (DrugPolicy.org 09/21/06). Another aspect of current drug laws that must be considered is the discrimination they uphold for "poor" drugs and "rich" drugs. Poor drugs refer to drugs such as marijuana, crack, and alcohol; whereas, rich drugs refer to cocaine, ice, ecstasy. Basically, poor drugs do not cost nearly as much as their rich counterparts. Drug laws tend to be more penalizing for poor drugs than their rich counterparts. According to a recent study, "sentences for crack offenders are roughly two to six times as great as sentences for powder cocaine offenders distributing equivalent quantities of drugs" (Narconon 09/23/06). Because people who are impoverished tend to buy "poor" drugs, the penalties they face are higher than the penalties their better-off counterparts would receive. Even though "poor" drugs result in longer prison sentences and higher fines, they should not be decriminalized. This paper only contends that marijuana should be decriminalized. Coinciding with all this is the U.S. government's drug education and prevention program: DARE. The purpose of this program is to educate America's youth about the dangers of drug use and how bad drugs are. It is essentially supposed to scare kids away from using drugs. There is one main problem with this program: either you use drugs and fail at life or you don't use drugs and you succeed at life. Its either black or white for this program. There is no gray area. Studies indicate that "D.A.R.E. has a limited to essentially non-existent effect on drug use" (USATODAY 10/11/93). The current DARE...
Cited: 1. Cauchon, Dennis. "Studies Find Dare Program Not Effective." DrugLibrary.Org. 11 Oct. 1993. USA TODAY. 2 Dec. 2006 .
2. "Crack Cocaine Laws." Narconon Southern California. 23 Sept. 2006 .
3. "Mandatory Minimum Sentences." Drug Policy Alliance. 21 Sept. 2006 .
4. "Marijuana as Medicine?" National Academic Press. 2000. Institution of Medicine. 28 Nov. 2006 .
5. "Poverty Areas." U.S. Census Bureau. 21 Sept. 2006 .
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